Flow Of Ideas – What’s Your Endgame?

Gavin Verhey concludes his long-time running Flow of Ideas column, as he moves on to a new chapter of his life at Wizards of the Coast. He offers some parting words on defining what your endgame is, not just in Magic, but in life.

My name is Gavin Verhey. I am 21 years old. Today I begin the job of my dream.

This is how you can do the same.

This isn’t necessarily about getting a job at Wizards working with Magic cards. This isn’t even about Magic. This is about anything you might choose to pursue in life, and how to go about getting there.

It’s about three simple words: what’s your endgame?

Most people play Magic turn by turn. They draw their card, examine the possibilities, make a play, and then do the same thing on the following turn. As they are presented with any given choice, they make what is the correct choice in the abstract.

But most great players know that’s not how you play optimal Magic.

To play a game of Magic well, you have to look at the larger picture and formulate a plan for the game. When you look over your opening hand, you don’t want to just play land and then cast a spell when you can. You want to look over your hand, assess how you’re going to curve, figure out who the beatdown player is, and evaluate the opponent’s plays as they make them in the context of their strategy. It’s not a game of one-by-one yes or no choices. It’s an evolving game that’s constructed by every choice you make.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, it’s directly comparable to how most people live their life!

Most people wake up and go to work or school. They do whatever is required of them, and then find something fun or relaxing to do in the evening. If they’re given a choice during any of this, they will pick a choice that is correct in the abstract based on maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. But where is the plan here? What are you working toward?

Mike Flores once said on a podcast that when he plays Magic and is trying to envision the right play, he will think ahead to what the board will look like when the game is over if he wins. By looking ahead to the end of the game, he can draw conclusions about the plays he should make now. Even if a play seems bad in the abstract, it may very well be the correct play to build toward the ideal end game board state.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise to me, then, when the first time I heard the question, “What’s your endgame?”, it came rolling off of Mike Flores lips.

There was a big group dinner the Sunday of Nationals last year. You know how these things usually work. Tons of people, tons of chatter, and so on. Huddled over in one corner were me, Flores, along with Joey Pasco and Joe “BigHeadJoe” Panuska. The Joes were talking about how their podcast had risen to popularity, and that’s when Flores popped the titular question.

“This is it, I think,” said Joey. “This is our endgame.”

“That’s it?” questioned Flores. “Is this really all you’ve ever wanted?”

I wasn’t even involved in the conversation, but my subconscious took those words in and incubated the idea. Later on, Patrick Chapin — someone who was an invaluable mentor to me — asked me the same question. And everything fell into place.

Before leaving for Wizards to become a Magic Developer, Tom LaPille wrote here on Star City Games. In his quest to be hired by Wizards, Tom kept coming back to two ideas: a whiteboard and the power of The Universe.

Tom believed that if you wanted something to happen and it continually surrounded your thoughts, eventually The Universe would grant it to you. He also talked about the idea of having a whiteboard you wrote your goals on. You’d look at it every day, only erasing a goal when you met it. Tom did this for a job in R&D, and it worked out.

Tom caught a lot of flak for his strange explanation of a whiteboard and The Universe’s mysterious power. What I actually think happened more than anything else is that Tom internalized his endgame and tirelessly worked toward it. The whiteboard continually served as a reminder guiding Tom’s actions. Those actions caused ripples that led to him getting a job. (Which, I suppose if you wanted to view it one way, it could be said that those ripples he created in The Universe led to him being given the job.)

Answer this question: if you could pick one image to realistically come true in your entire life, what would it be?

Got the image in your head? Alright. That’s your endgame.

An endgame is a singular vision of the person you want to be. It is an image of you, sometime in the future, where you have accomplished your goal.

My endgame vision might not be what you expect.

Picture this. I’m in my living room, a happy, financially stable grandfather balancing a grandchild on one knee. I want to be able to show them all I’ve done with Magic. Not only with my adventures around the world and my writing, but I want to have had a successful career designing Magic. I want Magic to still be around so I can play it with them.

That’s my endgame. That’s the ideal image that every action I make strives to create.

Like Magic, life is a series of choices. Every little decision you make has the potential to change your entire life.

Go to a party on a whim and end up meeting your future wife. Take English 120 because you missed the last spot in Biology 101 by seconds, and end up changing your mind about which major you want. Walk into a comic shop because you had some extra time, and end up walking out with your first Magic booster pack.

We don’t know where any one of those decisions is going to lead us when we make it. People talk about having individual goals, but the choices we have are unpredictable and have uncertain outcomes. With life continually in flux, that makes perpetually building your life toward different short-term goals difficult. The only thing that ever stays solid — the only thing you can ever completely build toward — is one resounding image at the end of your decisions: your endgame.

That image is firmly in my head. I’ve focused my eyes to look through that lens. Every time I make a decision, I look at how this builds toward the world where I’m 80 and happy to be there. If it doesn’t fit into the picture, I question why I’m making that decision. Whenever I am posed with a crossroads, I ask myself the question: does this fit into my endgame?

I try to keep a steady girlfriend rather than playing the field because it makes me happy to be around somebody long term and because I know I want to have kids and grandchildren. I go on adventures and write whenever I have the opportunity because it makes me happy and can a show them off later on in life. And I design games not only because I love it and it makes me happy, but because I want to create something future generations of Verheys can play. All my choices fit into my endgame and create a me that is both happy now, but happy in the future.

It’s more than just governing your decisions. Step one is making your decisions with your endgame in mind. There are many people out there who have made it to this step. Step two is a little harder — it’s actively working toward your endgame.

Making choices as they come is a passive route to your endgame, but to get everything you want you need to be willing to actively fling yourself toward your end game. You have to come up with ways that will get you to where you want to go. When ideas strike, you should ask if they will fit your endgame and then contort them to match up with your endgame as best possible.

I’ll give you two great examples.

Most players know what Cube drafting is now. Most areas have at least one cube. However, four years ago that wasn’t the case. Cube rose to prominence thanks to Tom LaPille.

Tom LaPille was the mastermind of cube. Regardless of where the concept actually came from, his name was (and still is) associated with the format. Now, Tom loved cubing. So much so that he wanted to share the idea of a cube with more people. Tom also wanted a job at Wizards. So, he found the place where the two intersected and made all of his talk of cubes simultaneously fit into his endgame image.

Tom could have just approached cube from the corner of a Magic enthusiast and talked about drafts he did, and so on. Instead, he focused on specific card choices in Cube, building Cubes, Cube design theory, and so on. Guess what: all of those things relate to designing actual sets too. Tom showed Wizards, among other things, that he had the capacity to design and develop ideas, and that he could put a vision behind it.

The second example is something a little closer to home: my work on Overextended.

I’m asked all of the time if Overextended was just a way to get hired by Wizards. The answer is a bit longer than just yes or no.

I saw that there was excitement around a new non-rotating format and knew that it would be successful, so I wanted to push for it. Now, I could have just written an argumentative article entitled “Dear Wizards: Magic needs a new format”. However, I looked at how this would fit into my endgame. I knew I wanted to work at Wizards, and developing, playtesting, watching, and writing theory about an entire format is directly analogous to being a Magic developer.

I wanted a new format to happen. As a member of the community who could captivate players, I wanted to spearhead this format. That had nothing to do with getting hired by Wizards. No matter what, I was going to do something relating to this new format. However, I chose the route I did specifically because I knew it would help showcase my skills as a designer and developer. As they say in the writing business, “Show, don’t tell”. And I aimed to do just that.

What will the next Cube or Overextended be? Well, that’s for you to figure out. The process isn’t easily duplicated, and it’s not easy. You have to be willing to work hard for what you want.

It took a lot of time and energy from Tom to build an entire site devoted to cube and write long articles to build up his site. As he was doing this, there was no immediate return. However, it built toward his endgame.

The same is true for Overextended. The Overextended project often amounted to about 35 hours of work a week. Between writing new articles, running tournaments, responding to e-mails, working with stores, and monitoring the format, it sucked up almost all of my free time. It even dipped into my own pockets. However, much like Tom, I knew all of the effort would help build toward my endgame even though it was a gigantic time sink in the present.

So I pose the question to you now: what’s your endgame?

Does your end game have you as a professional Magic player? CEO of a successful business? Famous actor? All of these things can be possible, but you will have to work extremely hard.

Dreams don’t just fall into your lap; you can’t just wait around for these possibilities to come to you. But if you truly commit yourself to these endgame images, they can and will happen. Be persistent, continue finding new ways to work toward your endgame, and make choices that fit the picture you’re working toward and I am confident you can get there eventually.

May we all someday reach our endgame.

And with that, it brings Flow of Ideas to a close. Thanks to all the staff of StarCityGames.com, especially the editors and SCGLive team. Thanks to all of my mentors and people who helped me to get here. Thanks to any of my friends, Magic or otherwise, who may have inspired my writing. Thanks to my family, whom this would never have been possible without.

And most of all, thanks to you. The Magic community is a gigantic force, and I couldn’t be here without your support. Whether it was posting a comment on an article, coming up to me at an event, or even just clicking the “like” button on one of my articles, every bit of it over the last two and a half years has been invaluable. Every interaction, no matter how small, has built me toward this moment.

Thanks again, everybody! Writing Flow of Ideas has been an incredible experience. On the horizon, I see a multiverse of worlds to explore, strung together and hung on threads of infinite possibility. It’s time for me to go. It’s time to begin the next leg of my Magic adventure.

Gavin Verhey

@GavinVerhey on Twitter



A few people have asked if I will keep writing somewhere. I want to eventually write for the official Magic site, and I hope to see you reading over there when I do. For now, stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter accounts for any writing I may do.

Additionally, feel free to browse through my archives. There are 143 other articles I’ve written, and so if you read a new one each week that’s enough to last you for quite some time.

If you’d prefer a more handpicked list, as a few people have asked for, here are 25 of my favorites out of everything I’ve ever written for StarCityGames.com. (Excluding, for the most part, any articles that are era or format sensitive.)

The Swinging Pendulum — Controlling your Luck

The Application of Close Reading in Magic

The Most Important Word in Magic

Through my Eyes — a GP Chicago Story

The Danger of New Things

Choosing Your Numbers

Dear Magic: Thank You

Welcome to your First Pro Tour

Magic and your Social Life

Stuck in The Middle with an Excuse

Topical Blend #1: The Day Magic Died

Signals are Overrated

Sideboarding in Limited

Stories of a PTQ Grinder

(More) Stories of a PTQ Grinder

Everything you Know is Wrong

So, you want to Win a PTQ?

Breaking Up (Is Hard to Do)

How to Become Famous


How to Win on a Budget

Are You Playing Enough Lands?

Flying for Free and Rooming for Cheap: The Travel Secrets of a Magic Grinder

Journal of Impossible Things

A Family of Magic